My girls are about to do their first tap dancing exam. It’s a pretty big deal in this house at the moment, with lots of practicing and extra classes and excitement.
It’s also pretty hard. Both girls are still unsure about a few things that will be part of the exam and both are quite nervous about getting it right on the day.
Talking with another ‘dance Mum’ about how prepared they were and what we could do to help them it suddenly struck me – I am ok with them not doing well in their tap exams. In fact I am ok with them failing their tap exams.
It’s an idea that has been swirling around my head for a while. I’ve read blog posts and articles on the subject and yesterday I caught some of Radio National’s Life Matters show talking about resilience and persistence in children and it all fell into place.
Doing hard things and failing is ok, in fact it is important for our kids to experience these set backs.
It might seem like I am a mean parent, being ok with my kids failing at something that is important to them, but it all makes sense to me.
Yes, I want my girls to do well at their tap exam. It will be great if they do well and experience that thrill of working hard, doing something difficult and achieving their goals. That would be a fabulous, and they would learn so much.
They would not be doing their exam if their teacher and I didn’t think they had the ability and every chance to do well. We have supported them and encouraged them every step of the way and done everything we can to help them succeed.
We all want them to do well, but the hard truth of the matter is that there is a reasonable chance that something will go wrong, they will get upset and it may all come crashing down around them. I am not hoping for that to happen, but it is a possibility.
I could turn myself inside out trying to prepare them more, I could force them to practice more, drill them on each exercise or could cancel the exam all together. But I am not going to do any of those things. I will simply support them, encourage them and love them, because I am ok with them doing well, and I am ok with them failing.
If the best happens and they do great, their teacher and I will be there, freezing to death in the foyer of the small country hall to hug them and celebrate with them and tell them how proud we are of all they have achieved.
If the worst happens and it all falls apart, their teacher and I will be there, freezing to death in the foyer of the small country hall to hug them and commiserate with them and tell them how proud we are of all they have achieved.
Because either way they have achieved something momentous. They have worked hard, they have been brave, they have done something scary and difficult.
The things they will learn if they fail are just as important as the things they will learn if they succeed.
If they fail, they will learn that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, things don’t go right. They will learn that sometimes ‘life sucks’ and it hurts, but you can move past that. They will learn that even in the worst of times there are good things and to proud of what they have achieved despite the setbacks. They will learn that failing is not the end of the world and how to pick up the pieces and start again. They will learn to be resilient and persistent and confident and a million other things… they will learn they really can do anything, even if they fail at it.
These are important things to learn.
I want my kids to do well in everything they attempt to do, but realistically that just isn’t going to happen. So I want them to learn that they can fail, things can go wrong, they can mess up… and still be ok.
I’d prefer they learn that surrounded by love and support doing something that isn’t hugely important (I know right now they think tap exams are huge and important but in the scheme of things, they’re not) rather than learning that later, as an adult when it may well be something that has a little more lifelong significance than a level 1 tap exam.
What do you think? Are you ok with your kids failing at thing?